One-on-one with Cam Tongue
Rivers School and Mass Rivals forward Camaron Tongue established himself as one of the top juniors in New England last spring and summer.
With his recruitment just beginning to reach the high-major level though, he made a surprising decision with an official visit and subsequent verbal commitment to Santa Clara this fall.
Now, in the midst of an equally strong winter campaign, Tongue sat down with NERR and discussed that decision, why it was the right move for him, and what makes Santa Clara a unique destination.
NERR: So you made a bit of a surprise commitment this fall. Let’s start with the timing of it. Why did you decide to commit so early?
CT: So when Santa Clara called, I actually had never heard of them or even knew they were located in California. They were unknown to me. But after doing some online research and looking into the school, their academics, and their basketball program, my interest peeked. I noticed Steve Nash went there so I was thought ‘ok they probably got some game.’ At first, I had written them off my list of schools of interest. But on the first day that coaches could visit high school campuses, their head coach Herb Sendek came to visit with me. He told me ‘you can be a part of something that already has a legacy or you can make a legacy of your own.’ That really caught my attention and I figured ‘ok Santa Clara might be something worth checking out.’
NERR: So, you weren’t initially planning on making a decision that early?
CT: No I was not. But when a school across the country calls me, and it’s where Steve Nash and even Kurt Rambis went, I added them as a place worth visiting. In September, they flew us out there for the official visit and was given a birds-eye view of what they’re all about. The campus there is amazing. It’s beautiful. Then the whole Silicon Valley connection is impressive. The Leavy School of Business just jumped up from 37th to 25th in top ranked business schools in the US. The network is huge for graduates to work in the Silicon Valley. Business is eventually what I want to do. That’s not to say that I can’t go as far as I can in basketball, but we all know the ball is going to stop bouncing at some point. I’m thinking long term. It’s great to have that confidence and believe you can go all the way, and I do, but you also need that back-up plan.
NERR: Silicon Valley is known for it’s tech first and foremost, did you have interest in that as well?
CT: Yes, very much. Web coding and math are some of my stronger suits. Their jump in the rankings impressed me. I wanted to go the best academic school for me. I need that perfect balance between academics and basketball and they provided that. I had the option to go to high-major schools and be a part of something that is already created, or, I could try to take advantage of an opportunity to have my name written down, like Christian Laettner and others who single-handedly elevated their schools.
NERR: So let’s talk about your recruiting before you committed. You were already being sought by high-majors right?
CT: Yes, I had already been offered by Utah. I also had interest from UNC and UVA.
NERR: And obviously that would have continued to grow. That did not matter to you?
CT: At first it did. Before seeing Santa Clara and what they are about, I was really interested in UVA. They had just won the national title. They are a powerhouse program, and they offer a good education as well. But when matching it up to Santa Clara, the Leavey School of Business, and being a centerpiece to an organization, that was something I just couldn’t pass up.
NERR: How about going out West? Was that something you had planned on?
CT: Not really, but the sacrifice to try to become that elite basketball player, while still getting a great education is worth the move. There’s a lot of things people don’t know about Santa Clara. They hired a new AD who came straight out of Nike. They’re building a 38-million-dollar facility just for basketball. They have chartered flights and tutors who travel with the team to keep them on top of their academics. They have a Gatorade fuel station with nutritionists to customize programs for their athletes. I am excited to be a part of what they are doing.
NERR: Lets talk about your game. You had a breakout spring and summer. Tell me about your game now and where it is going.
CT: So, like everyone, I just try to get better every day. I have worked to improve my outside shot to become a dual threat. I can go at you in the post, but if you give me space outside, I will knock that down too. Your handles can never be too perfect, so I am trying to get that one-two move to get by my defender. My footwork has improved a lot and has allowed me to create space offensively, while getting position under the boards for both offensive and defensive rebounds. Rebounding is kind of my pride and joy.
NERR: You have a season and a half left at Rivers. With your recruitment now out of the way, what would you like to accomplish?
CT: Just to keep getting better. I want to get more comfortable with putting the ball on the floor. I would like to win an ISL championship before I go. I feel Rivers can do it. We just need to communicate better on the floor and improve defensively as a team. If we do that, I feel nobody could stop us.